Ghost Woman Haunts the Hallowed Halls of Psychedelia on Self-Titled Debut
Published Jun 30, 2022Some bands may take razor blades to their amps to get that authentic Kinks fuzz going. For his self-titled debut as Ghost Woman, Evan John Uschenko plays his hazy psych pop raw. This is partly an homage to the old ways of DIY — continuing the legacy forged by psychonaunts in small, sweaty spaces around the world since Joe Meek first heard voices in the static — and partly due to the chaotic good mother of invention, necessity.
As an integral part of Michael Rault's touring band, Uschenko gained priceless insight during his days sharing the stage with the likes of Jacco Gardner, the Mild High Club, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Honing his studio work with live performance in mind, his play became so incendiary that his rehearsal space caught fire, and whatever gear wasn't burned was later stolen from his van. The world can kick your ass sometimes, but the ever-intrepid Uschenko wouldn't allow himself to get munsoned in the middle of nowhere. Brick by brick, he built the haunted house of Ghost Woman and smudged it with the vibes of a slow-burning Nuggets compilation.
Ghost Woman's eponymous full-length feels compulsive, almost dangerous in a way that evokes the early works of the Brian Jonestown Massacre or when Ty Segall and White Fence first came together. Written, produced and mixed by Uschenko against the odds, it feels like the work of a visionary traveller who wandered out of the desert somewhere around Barstow with a Gretsch, tremolo pedal, Sears Roebuck Japanese knockoff amp, and a bag full of moon rocks.
Listeners enter Uschenko's ethereal world through the shuffle of "All the Time." With its jangly guitars, light jazz percussion, and lyrics lamenting the pain of loneliness, its period-obscure style is reminiscent of the Coral channeling the Byrds or something on the chill side of Trouble in Mind or Lolipop Records.
Uschenko's prowess as a guitarist on "Behind Your Eyes" promises to transform your lack of taste with its interplay of jangly staccato chords jutting from ear to ear. "Dead & Gone" lets loose some of the album's nastiest fuzz riffs, with a bass sound like Norman Greenbaum found the spirit underground — the one with the better record collection.
"Do You" and "Along" provide shining examples of old-school rock songs drenched in passionate rejection that ramble with more of that early Stones swagger, Uschenko's vocals buried in lingering reverb and delay, while "Comes On" delivers a prickly acoustic guitar progression paired with minimal campfire percussion, kick drum and shaker.
"Clockwork" trips out with a Fogerty-esque electric guitar twang and rustic acoustic guitar. There's a thinness to it that is simply captivating, something you would imagine a white 1970 Dodge Challenger blasting out its stock stereo system as it evaded police on a doomed attempt to reach the vanishing point.
"Jreaming" channels that gruff Link Wray guitar rumble into a phantasmagoric meditation à la "Rock On" by David Essex. The lyrics touch on the complexity of need, feeling free with someone while sensing they should leave them alone. There is that old saying, "If you love something, set it free."
With an artfully long, slightly creepy intro that leads to a lament about taking a relationship for granted while remaining hopeful that they both grew from its fizzling out, "Good" shifts into the noir side of folk. The song mentions a girl, but many of the lyrics have an ambiguity to them, dealing with introspective relationships rather than vulgar specifics, so they could be sung by anyone about anyone. There's a vague universality to his storytelling that seems to outline the doomed relationship between two best friends throughout the album, yet the audience only gets to see ten little vignettes to decipher the plot.
Rather than being so strictly designed as a concept album, Ghost Woman's debut comes off more like you're watching a band jam in a hazy cavern, the walls flecked with beer and blood that never fully dries, with no doors on the bathroom stalls. All of the experience Uschenko gained from watching King Gizzard and Jacco Gardner paid off in that regard — but, like the average concert, the effect is also somewhat fleeting.
Ghost Woman's self-titled effort is full of golden moments, but the album has a tough time sticking overall. If he keeps mining these nuggets, though, Uschenko will assuredly come up with unique gems that will dazzle us all. He's got the tools, drive, and inspiration, but perhaps he could use a little luck. (Full Time Hobby)